WriteToLearn 5.3 Expands Comprehension Tools, Activities

Pearson has released WriteToLearn 5.3, the latest update to its writing development and reading comprehension tool.

In addition to the tool's previous offerings, including a wide array of essay topics and writing development and improvement activities, as well as the exclusive Knowledge Analysis Technologies (KAT) writing assessment engine, WriteToLearn 5.3 offers a new series of activities for students to develop their skills in summarizing materials they've read. The exercises are also designed to help to build skills in reading comprehension and communication of ideas. Notable in these activities are text-specific questions, or "hints," that direct user focus on the important points and ideas in a written piece. Teachers can apply the writing summarization activities to nearly 600 reading passages across various subject areas included in the software.

Also newly available is the option for teachers to create their own essay topics to assign to students and then use the KAT engine to analyze the work.

Debbie Craven, a special education teacher at Troutman Middle School in Troutman, NC, recently began teaching an inclusion class using the software, and she and a colleague helped pilot the new teacher-created topics option. "To prepare my students for writing persuasive essays on the state assessment," Craven explained, "I entered a teacher-authored topic. It was extremely easy, took just five minutes to learn, and WriteToLearn led me through the process."

Craven said she and Perry Justice, her co-instructor in the class, used to have to allow their students up to two weeks on essay assignments. "Some of our students couldn't focus to put together simple sentences, and writing was very difficult and frustrating for them," With WriteToLearn, she said, "we have seen a dramatic change. Kids who used to struggle with one or two paragraphs are composing entire essays, and the papers they wrote were just fabulous." "They finished them in a day and a half instead of two weeks," Justice added, "and they were working on them at home, too."

Schools and districts with current WriteToLearn accounts will be upgraded to version 5.3 free of charge.

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Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.